This fall has been unseasonably warm so far, but we're not complaining! The warmer-than-average temperatures into November mean an extended hiking season to enjoy. Here's your short list of the best hiking trails around Morgan County and what makes them special.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest
At the top of everyone's list for great hiking is Morgan-Monroe State Forest! If you're a seasoned hiker, go for the longer trails such as Low Gap Trail or Three Lakes Trail. Both are rugged ten mile long loop trails. There's also a Back Country Area, east of Low Gap Road where overnight backpacking is permitted, just register at the office first. For less experienced hikers, or those with small children, Rock Shelter Loop and Mason Ridge Loop are great options. Both are about three miles or less and rated moderate. There's also a Tree Identification Trail at Scout Ridge Nature Preserve for those interested in the area's tree growth. For the truly adventurous, Tecumseh Trail connects Morgan-Monroe to Yellowwood State Forest in nearby Brown County.
Technically a part of Morgan-Monroe State Forest, Ravinia Woods is a separate unit of about 1,500 acres near Paragon, adjacent to Morgan County's Burkhart Creek Park. The area is accessible for a variety of uses including hiking, hunting, gathering, wildlife viewing, and even some limited fishing. There are miles and miles of firetrails that are accessible to hikers and you'll often find the unexpected on this property, such as the ruins of farm buildings or other remnants from previous settlers. There are parking areas located on Duckworth Road, Parker Road, and Hurricane Road.
Burkhart Creek Park
Owned and operated by Morgan County Parks & Recreation, Burkhart Creek Park is an 83-acre parcel that includes over two miles of trails, including a paved loop as well as gravel surfaced trails. Landscapes you'll encounter include wooden areas, prairie grasses, newly planted trees, wetlands and the creek bank. Keep an eye out for raptors and other birds as well as small wildlife. There is an area with creek access, so if you have little ones, plan to bring rain boots for a bit of splashing around!
Jimmy Nash City Park
Yes, it's a city park, but no, that doesn't mean there isn't some great hiking to be found. Jimmy Nash Park is more than 100 acres that offers a quarter mile paved walking trail as well as more than two miles of hiking through the forest on Nash Trail. Be prepared for a climb - the park also features "park hill" with more than 400 feet of elevation, making the loop hike a bit more challenging. Little ones will also love the play areas and fishing in the 2.5 acre pond.
This 150-acre park offers lots of amenities as well as paved walking/jogging trails that take you around and through the majority of the park area, including over and adjacent to the East Fork of White Lick Creek. Again, if you plan to explore the creek bank, come prepared for a bit of splashing! The various trails can be used as shorter or longer loops - with the longest contiguous loop being nearly three miles! Four different parking areas give you a variety of starting points and kids will love the three play areas as well.
Enjoy the beautiful fall weather as long as it lasts, but don't be afraid to venture out even once the cooler winds of winter arrive! Each of these sites are wonderful options for mid-winter activities, including winter hikes which can be great for spotting birds and other wildlife. Jimmy Nash Park in particular is well-known as a regional winter sledding destination. Just be sure to check the weather forecast ahead of time and be prepared with appropriate clothing (we strongly recommend layers this time of year for versatility).
Don't forget to check out Morgan County area restaurants to fuel up before or after your adventure. Happy hiking!